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Formula E will crown its champion this weekend at the New York ePrix

Formula E has had a wild season this year, with unpredictable, close racing and tight championship battles for both drivers and teams.  It’s finally coming to an end this weekend in New York, with races on both Saturday and Sunday to finish out the season.  Jearn-Eric Vergne and Techeetah currently have a big lead for the drivers’ and teams’ championships respectively, but anything could still happen in these last two races.

The track is in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood, located near the Brooklyn cruise terminal.  The track offers great views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.  We’ll have Seth and Phil on-site at the ePrix this weekend, so if you want live updates from the track, check out our Instagram.

But first, a race recap.  Before we talk about the last race’s results, here’s the full race on Formula E’s YouTube page. Have a watch if you’d like. You can also visit the bottom of this post for a shorter video of the last race’s highlights.

Bern ePrix race recap

The Bern track offered a little change of pace from other Formula E circuits.  Until now we’ve mostly seen large straight streets in city centers or city park areas used for tracks, whereas Bern offered a track full of smaller, twisting streets surrounded by quaint buildings.  There was also a lot of elevation change, something we haven’t seen much of in Formula E yet.

It made for a very pretty race, but one problem was that the track was too tight, and we saw this in the first few seconds of the race.

The first corner is a tight chicane, which really didn’t allow cars to enter any more than one at a time.  But right after the start, when cars are bunched up and jockeying for position, there are going to be some cars side-by-side.

So when those side-by-side cars tried to enter the first chicane, they crashed.  And since the track was so tight, they got stuck.  This led to the entire field being backed up behind crashed cars, with only a few cars getting out ahead of the chaos.  The race was red-flagged immediately and cars were directed back to the pits.  This was the fifth red flag we’ve seen during a race this season.

Some cars were damaged but with the red flag, the teams got a chance to get everyone back on track with the exception of Robin Frijns, who had been crashed into by Jerome D’Ambrosio at the start.

After quite a long red flag period the race was restarted after some controversy over the starting order.  Cars were sent out behind the safety car in their original grid order from qualifying.  Championship leader Vergne had qualified on pole, with last year’s Swiss ePrix winner Mitch Evans in second and Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi in third at his home ePrix – Nissan once again doing well in qualifying, as has been the case recently.

The race settled in from there, with the most exciting part of it being the chase for the lead.  For the entire race, Evans and Vergne battled at the front, with Evans constantly harrying Verge and staying within a second or two of him most of the race.  Buemi was near enough behind but never really looked ready to challenge the front two in a serious capacity.

There was some drama in the field with Eduardo Mortara and Alex Sims coming together, Gary Paffett having to enter the pits with some sort of damage (possibly from Lucas Di Grassi?), Pascal Wehrlein losing power and having to stop on track, and Buemi having a battery temperature issue due to constant demand on the battery from the hilly Bern track.

About ten minutes from the end of the race, teams started hearing about the threat of rain.  Formula E has only ever had one true wet race before, but the series does race on treaded street tires so tire changes aren’t needed if rain does decide to fall.  Nevertheless, with a close battle at the front, a little rain could cause some real chaos.

It did start raining about two minutes before the end of the race, which led to a lot of cars tiptoeing around the track.  When rain starts to fall conditions can change every second, so it’s very hard to pick optimal braking points.  This led to a natural disadvantage for Vergne at the front, as he was the first car to enter each corner, and cars behind him could learn from his mistakes about how early they needed to brake.

This caused the cars to bunch up, with Andre Lotterer joining the front pack.  There was a lot of slipping and sliding for the last couple laps and a few cars looked like they were about to lose control (Sam Bird in particular nearly lost it), but everyone managed to keep it together and we saw no position changes at the front.

The race ended as it started, with Vergne, Evans, and Buemi on the podium.  Lotterer crossed the line fourth but was later penalized for ignoring pit exit lights.  Mortara wasn’t able to finish his home race due to a brake failure, and Jose Maria Lopez was disqualified for using over 200kW of power.

Vergne’s win puts him in a commanding 32-point lead of the drivers’ championship going into the final race weekend, but he’s still not out of reach.  DS Techeetah is still in the lead for the teams’ championship as well, but Audi is still within reach there too.

Other Formula E-related News

For the last few years, Formula E has had a spec chassis but has allowed drivetrain development from the teams.  Some teams have gone with different motor and gearbox configurations, with some teams even using dual motors.  While this hasn’t always resulted in success, it is suspected that Nissan currently uses a dual motor configuration for their cars.  This could be behind Nissan’s good qualifying performance throughout most of this year, though they have still suffered in race pace.  But the FIA apparently has a problem with this and has banned dual motors for next year.  It’s unfortunate for Nissan because they had a rough start to the season but were finally starting to do well in the last several races, and particularly well in qualifying.

This week, Formula E officially revealed the car for their new series, “Extreme E,” which will take electric racing to remote parts of the globe.  The car, dubbed “Odyssey 21” (the series plans its first races to start in 2021), looks like an electric Baja race truck.  It has ~400kW (~550hp) power output and can conquer up to a 130% grade (about 52.5º).

We saw the first race in MotoGP’s new MotoE all-electric motorcycle racing series. The races are quite short, with the first race only being seven laps long, as motorcycles don’t have a lot of space for batteries.  The series decided to go with short races with no energy-saving rather than longer ones so that the racers could go all-out without having to think of energy conservation.  This led to a pretty exciting if short race, with a lot of jockeying around for position, at speeds that seemed quite comparable to the flagship MotoGP — but eerily quiet.  You could even hear the noise from riders’ kneepads scraping against the track when they leaned through the corners.  The race was red-flagged near the end after one rider crashed his bike and took out a safety barrier in a manner that would be irreparable in the amount of time they had available on the track.  But if you’re interested in MotoGP, it would be worth checking out this series.

Last weekend was the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and we saw several electric vehicles take to the track including the Harley Livewire, Porsche Taycan, and a record-breaking run in the VW ID.R.  We also saw another record set for the fastest autonomous lap on the track.  Roborace’s DevBot took the track and beat the Robocar from last year by several seconds.  The lap looked better than last year but still obviously very tentative.  There’s quite a way to go before they can get close to competing with a real racing driver.

2019 New York ePrix – what to expect

The Brooklyn Street Circuit isn’t the most beautiful track of all, it’s in a dockside cruise/ferry terminal area and it certainly looks like it.  Let’s just say it’s not the kind of docks you see at Monaco.  The track could be more interesting too, it’s mostly hairpins and 90 degree turns, and everything kinda looks the same.

But we’ve seen a lot of tracks like that in Formula E which still produce exciting racing, particularly this season.  So you can still expect exciting racing nonetheless.

And the views from the track are nice.  The podium is along the New York Harbor near Governors Island and has a great view of the Lower Manhattan skyline.  The track is also apparently pretty easily accessible to residents of the area, between ferries, subway, shuttles, or citi bike.  It might be a nice way to spend part of your weekend for any of our readers in the largest metro area of the US.  E-Village tickets are still available at $12 (with limited track views), and grandstand tickets can be had for $95 each day.

Going into the New York ePrix, Vergne is way ahead on points.  A 32 point lead would be enough for him to have already clenched the championship, since 29 points is the maximum amount available from a race (1st = 25, pole = 3, fastest lap = 1), but the New York ePrix is unique this year in that it’s two races in one weekend.

That means a driver is theoretically capable of earning 58 points this weekend, which could certainly close the gap with Vergne.  It’s unlikely that a driver would manage to sweep all the points, but it has happened before – Sam Bird did it two years ago at the inaugural New York ePrix weekend.

But even if di Grassi, Vergne’s closest rival for the championship, did sweep the points, as long as Vergne doesn’t finish too far back he can still win it.  If Vergne manages to get on the podium in both races (30 points), he will win the championship no matter what anyone else does.

Vergne would be first repeat champion we’ve seen in Formula E, though that comes with a bit of an asterisk as Buemi was on pace to win a second championship two years ago with six wins in the first eight races but had to miss both races in the New York ePrix weekend due to scheduling conflicts with WEC (conflicts which seem to be returning next year).

A similar story goes in the teams’ championship, with Techeetah ahead of Audi by 43 points.  But since there are two cars in each team, the total number of points available is higher.  If a team sweeps the weekend they could win 94 points, so a big swing is possible there.

Techeetah and Audi were the main contender’s for last year’s championship too, and Audi just barely edged out Techeetah with a big result in New York (getting one 1 win, two 2nds and one 3rd place finish over the weekend).  Techeetah had had a big lead going into the weekend but fared poorly at New York.

This could certainly happen again, so it’s something to look out for.  Nissan and Virgin still have a chance mathematically, but it would take a phenomenal result and several retirements from the lead teams for them to be able to win it all, so that is unlikely.

While it would be easy to conclude that Vergne and Techeetah will probably take it this weekend, especially with their recent form, the one thing we’ve learned this year, as always, is to expect the unexpected.  So we’ll be tuning in to see whatever crazy thing comes up.

We’ll have Seth and Phil on-site at the ePrix this weekend to show you some cool inside looks at the track, the E-Village, and anything else they can find.  Check out our Instagram for updates from the ePrix.

The two rounds of the New York ePrix are on Saturday and Sunday, July 13th and 14th. The races starts at 1:00pm PDT/4:00pm EDT, 8:00pm UTC.  Head to Formula E’s website to learn how to watch the race in your country.

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Avatar for Jameson Dow Jameson Dow

Jameson has been driving electric vehicles since 2009, and has been writing about them and about clean energy for since 2016.

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